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Friday, December 27, 2013

The best ever European Champions Cup Winners, 1956-1991

How about those legendary European Champions Cup winners? Were they as superior and unbeatable as we now think they were? This time I take a look at the match statistics of the first 36 champions of Europe (1956-1991), before the UEFA decided a plain and honest knock-out tournament wasn’t commercially interesting enough.

The lucky winners

Steaua Bucuresti showing the cup to their home crowd
Let’s start with the champions that were very lucky to win the cup and didn’t make a big impression, at least not outside of their own country. Statistically PSV Eindhoven (1987-88) is the worst Champions’ champion of all. PSV only slipped through the quarter and semifinals on away-goals. And on top of that, they couldn’t win the final in 120 minutes. PSV drew their last five matches of the tournament, and only scored nine goals in nine matches. Two years later, AC Milan also managed just nine goals, but conceded only two. PSV conceded five.The other underachiever in this comparison is Steaua Bucuresti, champions of 1985-86. They also collected just eleven points from their nine matches, also conceded five goals, but at least scored thirteen times.

Here’s the list from the worst champion down to number 6:
(Rules: two point for a victory, one for a draw, points given after 90 minutes)

Rank
Club + year
Played
Won
Draw
Lost
Points
Goals
% Points
36
PSV Eindhoven (88)
9
3
5
1
11
9-5
61,1
35
Steaua Bucuresti (86)
9
4
3
2
11
13-5
61,1
34
AC Milan (69)
7
4
1
2
9
12-5
64,2
33
Benfica (62)
7
4
1
2
9
22-11
64,2
32
Bayern München (74)
10
5
3
2
13
25-15
65,0
31
AC Milan (90)
9
5
2
2
12
9-2
66,6
30
Manchester United (68)
9
4
4
1
12
13-6
66,6
29
Real Madrid (66)
9
5
2
2
12
21-10
66,6
28
Feyenoord (70)
9
5
2
2
12
23-5
66,6
27
Real Madrid (59)
7
4
2
1
10
14-4
71,4
26
Internazionale (65)
7
5
0
2
10
15-5
71,4
25
Liverpool (78)
7
5
0
2
10
17-7
71,4
24
Real Madrid (56)
7
5
0
2
10
20-10
71,4
23
Real Madrid (58)
7
4
2
1
10
24-7
71,4
22
Nottingham Forest (80)
9
6
1
2
13
13-5
72,2
21
Aston Villa (82)
9
6
2
1
14
13-2
77,7
20
Hamburger SV (83)
9
6
2
1
14
16-5
77,7
19
Ajax (71)
9
6
2
1
14
17-5
77,7
18
Juventus (85)
9
7
0
2
14
19-6
77,7
17
Bayern München (76)
9
6
2
1
14
19-4
77,7
16
AC Milan (89)
9
5
4
0
14
20-5
77,7
15
AC Milan (63)
9
7
0
2
14
33-6
77,7
14
Liverpool (77)
9
7
0
2
14
22-5
77,7
13
Bayern München (75)
7
5
1
1
11
11-4
78,5
12
Real Madrid (57)
8
6
1
1
15
20-10
81,2
11
Nottingham Forest (79)
9
6
3
0
15
19-7
83,3
10
Celtic (67)
9
7
1
1
15
18-5
83,3
9
Red Star Belgrade (91)
9
6
3
0
15
20-5
83,3
8
FC Porto (87
9
7
1
1
15
21-5
83,3
7
Benfica (61)
9
7
1
1
15
26-9
83,3
6
Liverpool (81)
9
6
3
0
15
24-4
83,3

The Top 5 Best teams

Now, let’s focus on the big teams, starting with the ones that won the Cup two or three times in a row. Statistically, AC Milan (winner 1989 and 1990), Nottingham Forest (1979 and 1980), Bayern München (1974, 1975 and 1976) and Liverpool (1977 and 1978), were champions with just an average record. Even the first four wins of Real Madrid were mediocre, only the fifth cup in 1960 put them among the best five wins ever. Here’s the final countdown, from number 5 to number 1.

5 Ajax (Netherlands), 1972-73

Ajax's third win in 1973 might be remembered as the one with a boring final against Juventus. But the road to Belgrade was very convincing: thrashing Bayern Munchen 4-0 in the quarter final (French newspaper l’Equipe voted this match the best match in the history of the European Cup in 2005) and winning home and away against Real Madrid in the semis. This season Ajax could have won all seven matches (they were given a bye as Cup holders for the first round). But after winning, as said, at home 4-0 to Bayern München (two goals by Arie Haan, one by Gerrie Mühren and one by Johan Cruijff, with Bayern-goalie Sepp Maier making three big mistakes), it was hard for the boys from Amsterdam to take the return matches two weeks later too serious. And so they didn’t. After seven minutes Piet Keizer scored 0-1, but an own goal by Ruud Krol (29th minute) and a goal by Gerd Müller (37th minute) gave Bayern München a consolation win. So Ajax collected twelve points in seven matches, scored fifteen goals and conceided only four.

Ajax (73)
7
6
0
1
12
15-4
85,7%

4 Real Madrid (Spain), 1959-60

Di Stefano scoring at Hampden Park
Real Madrid won the first four European Champions Cup, but not with such domination as we are willing to believe now. In fact, in 1955-56, they lost 3-0 in the second leg of the quarter final to Partizan Belgrade, after winning 4-0 at home. This is the biggest defeat ever of a Cup winner in these 36 years. The 1959-60 season however, Alfredo di Stefano (8 goals) and Ferenc Puskas (12 goals) were unstoppable. Madrid lost one match in this campaign, 3-2 against OGC Nice, after a 2-0 lead. The other five matches to the final were easy wins: 7-0 and 5-2 against Jeunesse d’Esch from Luxembourg, 4-0 in the return against OGC Nice, and 3-1 away and at home against their toughest rival, Barcelona. The final at Hampden Park, Glasgow, on May 18, probably was the most entertaining final ever. An attendance of 127,621 spectators saw Real Madrid winning 7-3 against Eintracht Frankfurt. Di Stefano scored the first two and the last one, Puskas the four goals in between.

Real Madrid (60)
7
6
0
1
12
32-10
85,7%

3. Ajax (Netherlands), 1971-72

Ajax before their semi final against Benfica
The three best ever European Champions Cup winners all played nine matches, of which they won seven and didn’t lose any. So basically I consider all three of them as the best winners ever. The ranking here is based on goal difference. This way claims number three. With two of their three wins in the Top 5, Ajax in the early seventies probably is the best European club team ever. Ajax started with a 2-0 against Dinamo Dresden, but couln’t avoid a draw in the return match (0-0).  After that, Olympique Marseille was easily beaten, 2-1 away and 4-1 at home. With impressive wins against Arsenal, 2-1 and 1-0, Ajax entered the semi finals. Benfica was beaten 1-0 at home, Sjaak Swart scoring the all important goal for his club. The Lisbon club couldn’t score on their home turf, 0-0, so Ajax advanced into the final. Ajax had the advantage to play the final in Rotterdam, against Internazionale Milan. It was Johan Cruyff’s best performance in a Cup final, scoring both goals in a well deserved 2-0 victory.

Ajax (72)
9
7
2
0
16
14-3
88,8%

2 Internazionale Milan (Italy), 1963-64

After a few free-scoring seasons (the last four winners before 1964 scored a total of 113 goals), it was disappointing that Internazionale Milan had another approach: defense before attack. Ans it worked: during the first three matches (Everton 0-0 and 1-0, and AS Monaco 1-0) they didn’t concede a goal. Their overall record this year is pretty impressive, although the opponents (Partizan Belgrade and Borussia Dortmund) weren’t really first class. Dortmund did take a point from the Italians, holding them at 2-2 in their home match.  The other finalist was, Real Madrid. With Tarcisio Burgnich, Giacinto Facchetti and Sandro Mazzola (two goals)  as their most important players, Internazionale beat the Spaniards 3-1.

Internazionale (64)
9
7
2
0
16
16-5
88,8%

1 Liverpool (England), 1983-84

The best campaign of 36 years was, surprisingly, completed by Liverpool in 1984. Their first two wins in 1977 and 1978 were not that special, the third in 1981 was very good, and during the 1983-84 tournament Liverpool did something extraordinary. First they beat Danish side Odense BK with ease (1-0 and 5-0), then Atletic Bilbao nearly kicked them out, after holding on to a 0-0 at Anfield. In Bilbao Ian Rush scored the only goal  of the match, getting Liverpool into the quarter finals. Again Rush won the home match for Liverpool against Benfica (1-0), in Lisbon the Portugese had no chance at all (4-1). Rumanian champion Dinamo Bucuresti was a difficult opponent in the semifinal, although Liverpool won both matches (1-0 and 2-1). So Liverpool spilled just one point on their road to the final. The final was played in the Olympic Stadium in Rome, Liverpools opponent was the home team, AS Roma. It stayed 0-0 for 120 minutes. Then Bruno Conti and Francesco Graziani missed penalties for Roma, Phil Neal, Graeme Souness, Ian Rush and Alan Kennedy scored for Liverpool and the cup went to England, again.

Liverpool (84)
9
7
2
0
16
16-3
88,8%



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